Reportedly, some residents are experiencing weak signals and inconsistent connectivity, but the article states that "...there were only 842 help-line calls out of more than 50,000 user sessions in the first 45 days of service." The help line and much of the construction and maintenance of the service was contracted to Hewlett-Packard.
I have used the free access in downtown St. Cloud a few times: it was below standards in my opinion. Downtown itself seems to be a black hole for cell phone signal, and the wi-fi was not much better. The speed is restricted to 1 Mbit/s for casual users, but I'm sure the ambulances and city employees the service was created for get unrestricted bandwidth. The speed is still light years ahead of the dial-up connection at my parents' house, so I can check my email much faster, and at least get that out of the way before my first disconnection.
St. Cloud sports a number of cafes and restaraunts to sit and eat (and potentially work) in, but I have only tried O'Dougherty's and the Lunch Spot next door, which either sported outdoor seating or seats near windows, and the staff members were fairly receptive to the idea that I just wanted to sit and work. I was the only kid with a laptop or any other wi-fi device, so I guess most people are still used to getting Internet access at home.
Really, this service is for the residents of St. Cloud. The city says it opened up the service so that families could save an average of $450 a year that would normally be spent on Internet connectivity. I'm sure they don't mind all the publicity thecity has been getting either.
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